RHETA JOHNSON: Cellophane hearts and soft centers

RHETA JOHNSON

RHETA JOHNSON

I was using the free White Pages website to try to find the ZIP code for a friend’s address. An advertisement popped up, something called Instant Checkmate, which is not free.

“I found out on Instant Checkmate my boyfriend of two years is a sex offender,” the rolling ad said. Ouch.

Someone is checking up on her boyfriend after two years. The site might have been more useful before the first date. After two long years, you’d think there would have been a few heart-to-hearts and such wrenching revelations would be history.

I couldn’t help but imagine the Valentine’s Day this couple is going to have. No cellophane-wrapped hearts or soft centers. More likely: The nut will get a lot of hard questions.

As more and more love affairs begin online, you can understand the need for instant, virtual private investigations. For who paints himself in an unflattering light when trying to find a match online?

“I like sunsets, long walks, honest companions and, uh, underage girls.”

I don’t think so.

I know this sort of thing also can happen when relationships begin the more conventional way. There are more rings in coat pockets in motel lounges than there are beer bottles. A perennial news item reports a man with two families, a plane ride apart, each oblivious of the other.

The difference may be the frequency of such deceptions when the date-vetting occurs online. Done the old way, you usually don’t meet someone for the first time with romance the intention. The pace generally is slower, with a few critical steps in between “no” and “yes.” Once in a while there’s something called friendship.

Now, I’m a romantic from way back. Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite celebrations. I even believe in love at first sight – if not love at first site. It is rare but happens.

What I don’t understand is falling for a photograph – or a personality on paper. I have to hear, smell, see and touch to render a romantic judgment. Except maybe in the case of Paul Newman.

The poor woman with the sex-offender boyfriend might have fallen in love at the Laundromat, for all I know. Or she might have sat on the church pew next to her fellow for years before taking the leap to dating. Somehow, I suspect not.

The French say their marriages are more successful than ours because they work at keeping mystery in the equation. Couples don’t expect to know everything about a partner. While that’s a nice theory and statistically sound – divorce in France is on the rise but hasn’t reached the U.S. level yet – you still like to think you know fundamentally what your partner is about. Is he honest, kind, true? You like to think you’d suspect deviant behavior after a month, a year.

I don’t know. With stars in your eyes, maybe it takes two.

I believe all of us on this earth are searching for love. We may put it on the back burner and turn down the heat, but we crave it. Far be it from me to be too critical of how anyone achieves the warmth of companionship, no matter how she runs the race.

And when the bubble bursts, Philip Marlowe is at her fingertips.

To find out more about Rheta Grimsley Johnson and her books, visit www.rhetagrimsleyjohnsonbooks.com, and contaxct her at Iuka, MS 388562.